SOME US AIRLINES, ARE experiencing pilot shortages as they attempt to add services, to meet traffic demand. Northwest Airlines says that it will reduce its monthly schedule by 150-200 flights for the rest of this year to cope with the shortage.

Northwest operates about 45,000 flights a month and the cuts will not significantly reduce the airline's planned 7% increase in capacity during 1996. The move is instead intended to placate its pilots, who have faced cuts in vacation time as Northwest has tried to maintain its schedule.

The US Airline Pilots Association says that the airline has not hired enough pilots to cope with expansion and attrition. Northwest plans to hire 400 pilots this year, but the union says, that almost 800 are needed to accommodate the planned growth and avoid vacation cancellations.

America West Airlines, meanwhile, has been forced to lease two Airbus A320s, with cockpit and cabin crews, from Midway Airlines to bridge the gap until newly hired crews are trained. The wet leases run to October, after which the aircraft will remain in America West's fleet and be operated by the airline's own crews.

The airline has hired 97 pilots since the beginning of 1996, including 65 recalled from leave, and plans to find at least 50 more this year. Kit Darby, president of career consultancy Aviation Information Resources (AIR), says that the hiring gap emerged after fewer pilots who had been on leave returned to America West than the airline had expected.

AIR is forecasting that US airlines will hire almost 10,000 new pilots this year, with an unprecedented 70%, of new appointments being civilian.

Major and national carriers will hire some 6,000, it estimates, with the majority of them coming from the regionals. Darby says that the shortage is short term and that there are "...plenty of pilots, and people who want to be pilots", in the system.

Source: Flight International